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Thursday, September 12, 2013

24 Hours in the Life of an Admission Officer

The whirlwind that is group travel is about to end for me. We have several trips with other schools (called consortium or group travel).  I've been covering the northeast swing for about seven years at UVa. This year, I'm visiting Boston (really Bedford, MA), Portland, Providence, Stamford, and Fort Lee (NJ). I grew up in the NYC area and spent 10 years in New England, so this trip always feels like a trip home...a very rushed trip home.

When we tell people about these trips, they often think we must have such a fabulous time. While we definitely enjoy much of the work we do, I don't think I'd consider it fabulous. Since readers seem to have loved the "behind the scenes" posts on Notes from Peabody over the years, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into the life an admission officer on the road.

Wednesday
5:55 AM
The alarm goes off and I wake up not really knowing where I am or what day it is. Every Marriott looks almost identical and when you check out of your hotel every morning to move to a new city, it can take a few minutes to figure out where you are on your itinerary. I slowly realize that it's Wednesday, so that means I'm in Providence, Rhode Island.

Two of my travel partners work out in the morning, but I take a few minutes to do a little writing, get ready for the morning's event, and pack my bag so I'm ready to check out quickly later.

Is this Providence or Portland?

6:45 AM
I arrive at the meeting room we'll be using for breakfast. We're hosting guidance counselors from schools in Rhode Island, southern Massachusetts, and eastern Connecticut this morning. Coffee isn't ready, but a staff member covering our breakfast brings me a mug right away. I love the Marriott in Providence. They're always so good to us.

 Coffee is a constant part of the day.

7:00 AM
Counselors start to trickle in and we talk about the evening program we held the night before in the large ballroom down the hall. For some reason, we had a larger crowd than we've ever seen in Providence. We hypothesize about why this year might be different.

8:00 AM
We start the formal part of our program. We each discuss new developments on our campuses and then field questions from the counselors.

9:00 AM
The counselors have to get back to school, so the breakfast ends. We all head to our rooms to pack and check out. The drive to Stamford will take 1.5-2 hours, depending on how the traffic is on I-95, so we debate spending a little more time in Providence. Since I lived in this city for a while, I suggest we head over to Federal Hill (the Italian section of town) for canoli and coffee. It's a beautiful day, so we can sit outside in DePasquale Square. It's a nice change from being cooped up in hotels.

Federal Hill...a little bit of Italy in Providence.

11:30 AM
While on the road to Stamford, I research a place for us to grab some lunch. I feel pretty strongly about eating properly on these consortium trips. Some groups might stop for fast food or a mediocre, rushed lunch at a chain spot on the highway, but I think it's important to eat well and patronize local restaurants along the way. Because I lived in many of these areas (one of my colleagues jokes that we are touring my former homes), the pressure is on to pick a good place for lunch.

1:30 PM
After a quick stop at Remo's in downtown Stamford for pizza (when I get close to NYC, I have to get some pizza), we check into the Stamford Marriott. Thank goodness they have rooms available for us even though we have arrived before check in. We're all exhausted and need naps.

3:30 PM
I close my laptop and vow to get at least a quick nap before it's time to get ready for our evening program.

4:15 PM
My colleague from Berkeley realizes that the room in which we'll hold our evening program wasn't set up with enough chairs to accommodate our crowd, so he works with the event staff to increase the room's capacity and get more AV set up.

6:30 PM
The first families being to arrive for our 7:30 PM presentation. We also realize that there's going to be an event in the room next to our ballroom and we might have to compete with their sound system.

7:40 PM
Our evening program was supposed to start at 7:30 PM and people are still streaming into the room. Two recent UVa graduates have arrived to help us and they cover the registration table so my colleagues and I can get the program going.

8:10 PM
The event next door sounds like a pep rally for some sort of sales force. I see how high I can push the volume up on the soundboard in our room without getting that dreaded feedback. I hope people can hear my colleague from Emory.

8:45 PM
We finish answering group questions and go to our tables to talk to families who didn't want to ask their questions in front of the group. The crowd in Stamford has great questions and my alumni volunteers are pretty popular.

Most of the people leave fairly quickly, but a few linger to ask questions. We start eying the clock around 9:30 PM because we haven't eaten dinner and most hotel restaurants close at 10 PM.

9:45 PM
We get out of the ballroom and race to the restaurant. It's closed! We panic, but one of the staff members says he'll take care of us. We eat dinner in the empty restaurant and wonder why people aren't taking as many brochures as in years past. We're all lugging massive boxes of materials and don't want to fly home with them. We hope that the good people of New Jersey will gobble up the rest of our brochures tomorrow.

11:00 PM
We finally head to our rooms. I check my phone and see that I've gotten a message from home.


The alarm goes off again at 5:55 AM on Thursday.